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BLOG #39. Which Game Would You Like to Play?

A participant of one of the Russian audio forums recently asked me the following question:

«Misha Kucherenko, haven’t [you] thought about releasing a more mass market product in a $500-1000 price range? Say, in order to let the wider audience to get involved instead of just a minor group of elite?”

So, here is my answer…

«Up until now in our company we have being thinking mostly about completely different issues.

Nevertheless, as much as I find it meaningful, I’ll try to provide you with a detailed answer to your question.

First, at the moment we do not have any mass production capabilities needed for manufacturing of a “mass product”, we must organically grow up to that particular stage of our development.

As a rule, through all of its history, the vast majority of the high performance audio companies have been evolving from “top” to “bottom”, that is in the direction from higher sonic pretensions products to their more easier producible, but at the same time, less exciting “trickled down” versions (and, by the way, not always necessarily cheaper ones).

In the case of ear monitors, such an evolution curve is much more limited because, in contrast to home audio, both the technologies’ capabilities and their application environment (ear canals instead of a huge multitude of listening rooms!) severely limit maneuvers of any kind.

Second, not to dwell here on the cost of the cable, there is also a very serious technological limit of the IEMs drivers’ sonic capabilities (of course, BA-drivers’ included).

Currently (if not for the last several decades) available nomenclature of such a devices used by all the IEMs’ manufacturers could be counted if not by the fingers on one hand, then, for sure, by the fingers on both of the hands.

Therefore, alas, but the full potential of the current BA-technology, the only relevant one for this particular discourse, has got a strictly set limits of its sonic capabilities.

Can you imagine what would have happened to the home audio industry if all home speaker manufacturers – not unlike in the ancient palm game “15” (please, see the attached picture) - had nothing else to do but to reshuffle virtually the same set of very much alike drivers (and, on top of that, had to strictly obey to  their speakers’  size limitations, so they could be crammed into the tiniest rooms)?!!

This is exactly what is currently happening in the ear monitor industry.


What we have done with our SB-7s, in contrast to what the most of other IEMs’ manufacturers are still doing, is we just assembled a complete set of some of the BA-drivers available for IEMs’ manufacturing at the moment, and sorted them out in the aligned configuration: (like in the aforementioned ancient palm game called “15”) from “1” to “15”.

No more, no less.


on: tThis is why we declare the SB-7s’ design as a “100% optimal” one, because, as we all know, “optimality” can be only the one and the only.


Now, if we begin to take some of the SB-7s’ drivers (-"chips”) away from this “palm game”, we wouldn’t be able to get the same sterling/complete (widest audio frequency range) and harmonious/aligned (high sonic resolution) configuration.

So, what would we do now?
It’s, really, not very exciting to play the same “palm game “15”” when some of the "chips"  are missing,  isn’t it?

Actually, what we can do now is to start a completely new BA-driver game.


For instance, figuratively speaking, we can start to play a “Rubik’s cube” game with BA-drivers where they would demonstrate a different aspect of their wholeness.

We can slightly sacrifice the audio full-range capabilities of this technology and will make our main stakes at a different aspect of what such drivers can deliver: the final construction’s “intellectual” musical resolution of the highest order.

When you put this aspect of BA-drivers upfront, they will be able to demonstrate their inherent ability to provide a coherent (like in the best choir) music presentation, which abounds in the most subtle details of the intellectual and emotional meanings of the reproduced music material.


But we still have to deal with the availability limitatihis "Rubik’s cube" still must be “solved” from the same “good old set” of available IEMs’ BA-drivers.

And, again, such a "Rubik’s cube" can be “solved” from all its elements with only the one and the only solution.

This was the “game” we “played” while developing our SB-5s.

In our whole line of ear monitors, the SB-5s are the product for the most “advanced” portable enthusiasts (or, as you call them in your question to me, for the most "minor group of elite").

By “advanced” enthusiasts I mean not so much those well versed in all subjects of audio, who’s got a lot of practical experience and a very wide technical outlook, but mostly I mean by that those who consciously demand the most uncompromised set of sonic requirements for the “advanced”, in program material terms, rendering of music reality by their audio rigs (and, by the way, I am not a snob, I don’t even try to despise all those “beginners” who consciously don’t even plan to become the “advanced” music enthusiasts).

The etymology of the word “advanced” implies that such individuals, by applying their special efforts and by spending their time and resources, already managed to advance forward in their endeavor from a zero level, and, most likely, they are fully aware of how to continue move even further – again, by continuing to apply their own special effort, by dedicating their time and some extra budgets.

They do not rely upon some external force to advance their skill of refined music listening hoping that someday someone would do that work for them (like, a manufacturer would 100% fulfill all their sonic wishing lists).

Then when we had started to develop the “universal tip”/smaller “ear print” SB-3s, in full accordance with your cited question above, a design intended precisely for its wider market acceptance (in the price range close to what you have  mentioned in your question) we immediately hit that aforementioned strict sonic capabilities’ floor of the BA-driver technology.


On the three drivers’ level, it became even more apparent to us that these drivers, especially when taken individually, were not originally designed for a wideband music reproduction with full dynamics and the highest resolution possible.

Instead, they were developed for a completely different set of requirements for the original intended application of hearing aids – namely, for the loudest speech reproduction possible and under some completely different set of goals.

So, in the end, the smaller number of BA-drivers you try to use to design new IEMs, the more obvious the latter becomes.

That’s why, not to lose our sonic excitement completely, cutting the IEMs’ prices at the expense of reducing the number of BA-drivers don’t leave us any opportunities but to contemplate which new audio game we should start.

So, which one?


Actually, I am still not 100% sure at the moment.

As our SB-3 development project is still in its “raw” phase what we’re talking about here is, probably, about laying out some pre-determined configuration of a “puzzle” from three BA-drivers, again,  from the same “good old” IEM BA-drivers’ set (some new available drivers, with real new capabilities, as far as I can see, are not even in sight…).


But what kind of pre-determined sought for sonic picture is to appear in this particular puzzle and “what flock of a feather” it will be from – even if I’m positive that we’ll be talking mostly about “birds” singing in a palette of acoustical music – I can’t really say.

To complete this (I must admit, possibly) too allegorical part of me answering your question, I would also like to add another part of the total answer viewed from a different perspective.

Fundamentally, a product’s quality evaluation comes from its functionality.

Just as you can’t evaluate the quality of a race car using a list of specs for the trucks, the same way it’s just impossible to judge an audio device’ sound quality without having to specify its exact musical functionality first.

Is your device is intended to “flood your neighbors downstairs with a melted «heavy metal»” or your intentions are to “pursue (possibly within the same recordings) your soul's exquisite raptures”?

First and foremost, this should be firmly determined.

In the full accordance with this kind of choices a sought for musical functionality of a given audio device is defined, and this determined functionality can be the only foundation for any of its sound quality evaluations (for further reading on musical functionality of an audio device, please, see the English BLOG #19 on our web-site).

Obviously, any functionality possess its own minimal cost (for instance, you can’t buy a decent race car for, let’s say, 5000 dollars).

So, when you mention “more mass product” in your question to me, which particular musical functionality can we even talk about?!!

Can the functionality of some abstract “more mass product” to fully comply with a sought for functionality of an audio device fitting your own personal needs?

(I don’t think so…)

Then we need to find the answers to only the two very last questions: first, what is exactly your own personal sought for musical functionality of an audio device?

And, correspondently, the second one: what would be the minimal cost of an audio product which possess the latter musical functionality?

Before anything else you should determine and fully realize your own well thought-out answers to the first question, because otherwise you can’t really get to move any further towards getting more and more satisfactions of your musical demands (and it is exactly the raison d’etre of the high performance audio, isn’t it?).

However, without getting your personal and detailed answer on this first question I would also have a hard time to supply you with my answer to the second one, and to, eventually, provide you with a full and detailed answer to you general question about our own products cited at the very beginning of this whole post.

Because, only armed with this sought for musical functionality, the exact strategy, appropriate aspects of applied technologies and their implementation options are chosen in production of an audio device, and which should lead, as a rule, to only one and the only correct (i.e. “optimal”) technical solution.

Therefore, only after fully clarifying the issue of your personal requirements for the musical functionality of your sought for audio device, figuratively speaking, only after I’ll be able to find out what kind of sonic “game” you want to “play”, I will be able to answer your own (!) general question about the “cost” of an appropriate technical solution.

As well as only after all that I’ll be able to provide you with a definitive answer regarding our own capabilities».


16.01.2018 // Author:  (Bigmisha) // Number of views:  402

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